American riders dominate in Kentucky

  • Two British riders were tied in seventh place after the conclusion of dressage at the four-star Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, as Olympic gold medalist Leslie Law aboard Shear L’Eau and Polly Stockton with Tom Quigley were marked equally at 48.2 pen for generally steady tests.

    American Olympic veteran Darren Chiacchia and the striking black Trakehner stallion, Windfall II, lead with a score of 33pen after a dynamic performance when the rider’s competitive nature got the better of him and he decided to go for it rather than play it safe.

    The U.S. riders feel they have an extra edge these days because they are being coached in dressage by multiple Olympic medalist Robert Dover who, as Chiacchia put it, is taking them to another level. That was demonstrated by the fact that they had a monopoly on the top five places going into cross-country.

    Playing to a record Friday crowd of nearly 19,000, Chiacchia overtook Kim Severson, who led yesterday morning on Royal Venture with 39.5pen until her Athens Games teammate rode in the afternoon. Severson decided not to compete her three-time Rolex winner, Winsome Adante, with an eye toward keeping him safe for the World Equestrian Games this summer, though she was not given a bye to secure her place on the team.

    Fifth is New Zealand’s Donna Smith on Call Me Clifton, with 45.6pen.

    The other British riders are much further down the line. William Fox-Pitt is 12th on 50.7pen with Coup de Couer, third with Law here last year, and 16th with Mr. Dumbledore, who netted 52penafter being a bit spooky yesterady. U.S.-based Emma Winter is equal 30th with 59.8 on Mahogany Chief.

    Law, now living in the U.S., admitted he might have been a shade too conservative in the medium trot as he started off on his veteran, and there was one other hiccup that lost him points.

    “He was pretty solid, just that little mistake down the last center line when he switched [leads] on me, but I think the rest of it was as good as we can expect, so I’m pretty pleased with him. He was accurate,” Law said after his ride at the Kentucky Horse Park, which will host the FEI Games in 2010.

    He’s been in Ocala, Florida, all winter and will go from here to Denise Rath’s farm in Virginia. Asked how he liked it in the U.S., Law didn’t hesitate to answer, “I’m loving it. The American people made me feel very welcome. All the riders are very kind and generous. Bruce Davidson was great to me when I got over here and gave me somewhere to stay till I got myself sorted out. A big ‘thank you’ to Bruce and all the other riders on the circuit.”

    Looking toward the cross country, Law repeated the same word used by every other rider to describe the route: “Big. It’s beautifully built and designed. There aren’t many courses Mike Etherington-Smith gets wrong. It’s a big challenge.”

    Happily, the forecasts of rain have been moved from Saturday to Sunday, so the footing should be super for the four-star’s biggest test, which includes several new fences.

    But rain would have increased the degree of difficulty, which meant some of those lagging behind the leaders could have had a better chance of catching up than they will as the sun shines bright on the Rolex event’s Kentucky home.

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